“It’s kind of expensive, but looks pretty nice,” I told John. We had briefly parted ways to check out two different hostels in El Remate where we might stay for the night. The one he visited was already full, so I gave him that quick report on the one I visited. That little statement is actually pretty funny when you break it down, and betrays a lot about where our standards have gone over the last four months.
First of all, “kind of expensive” was 150Q a night (just under US$20.) You can imagine the rates we’ve been paying that have made US$20 a night seem expensive.
Second of all, “pretty nice” meant it had a private bathroom, provided towels, looked clean, didn’t smell funky, and appeared to have matching sheets on the bed. Nevermind that there was no hot water in the shower and the top sheet on the bed was actually a dust ruffle (that thing you put between the mattress and the box springs to make the space between box springs and floor look prettier – not intended for sleeping.) It also came with a primo location on the lake. Seemed pretty nice to me.
What can I say, four months of backpacking will adjust your travel standards.
[I should note here for anyone who hasn't traveled like backpackers in this area, that rooms in many places we've stayed here are small and usually just have a bed and maybe a nightstand of sorts in them. Beds are often made up with mis matched sheets (often with a wild variety of prints and colors), one or two very flat pillows, and rarely have blankets. Towels are not always included, and sometimes you have to ask for toilet paper. You will never find anything like a TV or clock, hand towels, shampoo or other bath products (sometimes including hand soap.) You have to ask to see a room before you decide to rent it for the night, just in case it comes along with a horrible mildew smell or is completely dark and windowless (we've seen both.) I add this note not because I mind these rooms - they work perfectly well for us and are very budget friendly - but if you've never traveled this way it might be hard to imagine why matching bed sheets qualifies as nice. There are of course places to stay in Central and South America that are higher end and more in line with the expectations of people from Europe and the US, but we don't generally stay at those places - we like it cheap.]
El Remate is a small town in Guatemala near Tikal. We chose to stay here instead of the more generic, tourist laden city of Flores nearby. Flores is where the overnight bus from Guatemala City drops you off, and where most tourists spend the night while visiting the Mayan ruins. We had been headed there ourselves when someone in San Marcos recommended El Remate to John as a great alternative.
While there is a lot less going on in El Remate, it’s far more beautiful than Flores. The lake is clear and blue, and the atmosphere is very laid back and friendly. John clearly enjoyed sitting on the dock and enjoying the view (have I mentioned we’re lake people?) He also took a swim at sunset, and said the water was warm and inviting.
We had nearly all of our meals at the restaurant next door to our hostel, where the woman who owns it makes everything for you in her little kitchen and serves heaping plates of rice, beans and veggies with a huge stack of fresh tortillas. Her authentic Guatemalan breakfasts were delicious as well (though the instant coffee was hard to take after all the good fresh coffee we had in San Marcos.) That little restaurant was a hub of activity in the evening, and we met several locals and other friendly travelers.
Full of authentic Guatemalan hospitality, El Remate was a lovely place to spend our last few days in Guatemala before crossing the border to Belize.
Photos from Tikal coming next!